October 6, 2015
After 16 years as a photographer, I still get little gifts of insight from every woman I am blessed to photograph. Younger, older, and all in between.
All are helpful to me as a professional, but I find more and more I am learning about myself through the people and experiences I witness.
There is something to be said for being able to stand outside of a situation, an event, a person and look in and capture it as you see it.
It is made all the better when what you can see can change the way someone sees them self.
I recently got a phone call from a lovely Nanna down in Sydney, who wanted to buy a gift for her Grand Daughter for her 21st. Cool, great idea I thought. But I had no idea at the time just how profound this gift would be.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Gemma, a quiet and creative soul and her support crew (Mum & sister) visit the studio for her gift experience day.
Glass of bubbly, a good little social whilst in make up and hair… as we do… and I find out she is at uni, lives off the grid on a farm with limited hot water (which facintates me lover of long hot showers) & that this photo shoot was sort of a right of passage in her family. Her Grandmother has a photo of Gemma’s mum around the same age on her wall (you know the lovely ones from the 80’s, every house has one) and so this is a bit of a tradition… great 🙂
Now Gem is not your real glamour type (off the grid kind of gives it away), she has a great hip indie style, so I think awesome lets change it up and head outside. We can get some more contemporary style pics of her across the road.
As soon as the camera is in front of her, I can feel her insecurities come rushing to the top, which is common and pretty much the same for everyone.
Shoo away Mum & sis (sorry), create a safe space, guide, support, and then she starts to relax… and then we get into the groove.
Here I am shooting a gorgeous 21 year old, happy days for me.
A few changes later, back in the studio, a super cool updo, smoking eyes, and this lovely vulnerable energy is turning into soft confident sass and she melts in her zone.
I turn around to see her mum proudly observing and her sister cheering her on. At times I guard their view, as I notice the attention makes Gemma feel a uneasy & exposed.
Confidence is something I think she is not comfortable with, just yet.
But she is getting there.
Photoshoot finished I send them on their way. They have had a good time and I am really happy with the images captured.
I spend the next week selecting just the right photos, polishing them and adding a few filters here and there for effect, then taking them off as they add unnecessary noise. This girl, her inner beauty and connected energy look like something from the cover of a magazine no altering required.
Sitting in the room, playing Gemma her slideshow, and something I never saw coming occurs. She begins to sob quite uncontrollably.
Now it has to be said, this happens quite a lot for me. But usually with older women who have lost contact with a certain part of themselves, women who have come through major struggles, journeys & obstacles.
But this young gorgeous 21 year old?
Gemma then opened up to me and shared how she had never seen herself as beautiful. Ever
That she was bullied all through school as she was overweight.
Sad fact is Gemma never thought she would like to what she saw of herself. Ever
I am gobsmacked and really emotional with her.
We sit in that room looking over these gorgeous images of someone who I thought was had a beauty that radiated from her soul, and she is sitting across from me telling me she has spent her whole life thinking she COULDN’T ever be beautiful.
Now I know I can look at Gemma and tell her she is beautiful, the whole world can tell her that.
But at the pointy end of it all, it really does come down to how we feel about ourselves that matters in the end. What messages we tell ourselves.
And it doesn’t seem to matter that Gemma had lost her weight over 12 months ago. Her mind was still replaying the same story.
Years of telling herself she was not, could not feel beautiful had truly set in stone a belief pattern that could have stayed with her for many years more.
I know we are supposed to be all about finding self love from the inside.
But sometimes you just need to be able to look outside yourself, and have an objective point of view.
Sometimes the mirror just lies. Not exactly sure what the exact psychological term for it is, but if you tell someone blue is pink for long enough, I am sure in time they will question themselves and start to believe it.
Now Gemma did all the hard work. She chose health, she worked her butt off. She changed her life so she would ultimately feel better about herself.
I just changed the mirror she was looking through for a bit is all.
I am sure if I asked Gemma if she would have ever put her hand up for a “glamour photoshoot” for herself – on her own – she would have died before saying yes.
And yet I think perhaps what she has gotten out of it is so much more than anything she may have gotten out of multitudes of comments and affirmations from those around her.
I think in many years time, Gemma will be able to look back at this present that her dear Grand Mother gave her, and will remember this time as a major change for her, and be thankful.
What more could you ask for in a gift?
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